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Most college students use their library as a space for quiet work, as well as to find research materials. An evaluation of academic library usage in Colorado found that 50 percent of students used the library for:

  1. Quiet studying
  2. Computer use and other electronic resources
  3. Access to specific research materials

But libraries—both school and public—have a wealth of resources to not only support your academics, but also help you relax and have fun. No, really!

Let Librarians Help You

Let’s say you’re writing a research paper. Sure, you could find usable sources yourself, but why not ask a professional? Kate Wenger is an academic librarian at the Jennie King Mellon Library at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She explains, “We can help you find the best places for information and then determine how to turn your research question into something that library databases understand.”

Librarians are experts at narrowing search terms and choosing databases, notes Kathleen E., a sophomore at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain. Margaret K., a junior at University of South Carolina in Columbia, says, “I took a class to learn to research better. Even after the class, the librarian helped me find exactly what I needed.”

Librarians can also provide advice about citation formats, and some schools, like California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, offer specialized academic software and training on how to use them.

My Library Has That?

The library might be your go-to place for “old school” academic resources, but what about some of the “new school” technologies? Brian Herzog, head of reference at Chelmsford Public Library in Massachusetts, explains that libraries offer many free resources, including:

  • Desktop computers and laptops
  • Microsoft® Office software
  • Printers and copiers
  • DVDs and Blu-rays
  • CD burners

Ms. Wenger adds that libraries may also offer:

  • Tablets and e-readers
  • Digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras
  • Voice recorders
  • Adobe® Creative software
  • Portable DVD players
  • MP3 players

Secret Uses for the Library

If you think your library is just for studying and schoolwork, think again! Here are some non-work activities you can do at most libraries:

Read a book for fun. Many college libraries offer a wide selection of recent fiction and non-fiction books. You might also consider reading a book on an academic topic you love but that’s not your major. (I love to read books on reverse engineering while at my library.)

Start a passion project. With all the tech available, there’s no reason to not give that side project a go! Want to start a YouTube channel? Rent a video recorder or digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera and tripod to film. Then head back to the library to edit the video. Have an app idea? Use the code software many library computers have and then check out a tablet to see how it looks.

Soak in some culture. Many libraries offer cultural experiences like art displays (student and professional), academic lectures, and social groups. Find out more from your library’s Web site and see if any pique your interest. Some also make discounted or free tickets available for local museums and other institutions.

Watch a movie. In addition to scholarly documentaries, libraries sometimes offer DVDs and Blu-rays of new and popular movies. You can check them out, or use computers and other media players the library provides. (I once rented a copy of Marvel’s Captain America from my library.)

Jam to some tunes. Many libraries have large collections of CDs, and not just the old stuff. You can bring a laptop (or rent one) and play it there, or throw it on your MP3 player for listening on the go.

Meet with friends. Now, don’t go telling your librarians that I told you to socialize and talk loudly in the library! With that said, there are typically areas reserved for quiet talking. Libraries have historically been places of gathering and community, be it for academic or social reasons.

Many schools also stock textbooks and have private study rooms or conference rooms with white boards. Jessica D., a junior at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, says, “I collaborate with classmates on homework assignments.”

Libraries can supply all the tech you need plus real people to help out. Don’t be shy, and you’ll walk away with everything you need to take on both daunting research assignments and your creative projects.

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